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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    My wife has been recently diagnosed with severe depression.

    Several months of my wife not being her self has lead to a few appointments with a professional. She has been diagnosed with severe depression. She is 49 yo, works as a nurse, we have two teenage daughters at home…… As husband/ wife , we talk about it a little. I tell her its ok, we will be there for her, many others also expereince this, she can come through it. What should/ could we do at home to help her?
    I am starting to feel a little lost and very worried.
    regards
    Chris
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    Suze

    HealthShare Member

    Hi Chris.  My husband was diagnosed with severe depression 7 yrs ago at age 42. Our first child was 5 weeks old. In my experience its tough for family members. The first key is getting the medication right. Get a psychiatrist and go to appointments with her - my husband tried to make out things were better than they were, or he forgot to ask questions he wanted answered, or he forgot the answers. Don't be afraid to tell the Dr if you don't think things are improving. The next step is making sure your wife takesthe medication. My husband wasn't resistant to using medication - he just didn't remember. He was flat out feeding and washing himself regularly. Having a routine that encompasses all the usual self-care proceedures that you can guide her through on a daily basis can be helpful.

    Understanding that there is nothing you can say that will make her snap out of it is helpful for you. Often a hug is better than words. Listening, acknowledging, not offering advise. Finding 2 or 3 people each that you and your girls can talk to about how you are feeling, and how you are coping is really important - I can't stress that enough.  I struggled with resentment, frustration, anger, hopelessness, feeling ineffective, feeling guilty - and it was so helpful to have 2 friends whose husbands had been in similar places. Even see a counsellor yourself.  I did. You need to take time out for you, because if it gets you down too, you risk falling down into the same hole. None of us are superman or wonderwoman. Ask for help with housekeeping if you need to. Make sure you do things you enjoy together, even if she doesn't seem enthusiastic. Find joy in as much as you can, for all of you.

    You can come through this.

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    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    Wise words indeed from the previous writer. It's SO important to get support for yourself when living with someone who has severe depression. This may be a combination of seeing a counsellor for yourself (Carers Australia offer family members of someone with a diagnosed mental illness up to 6 funded sessions with a counsellor close to where you live), seeking out a support group of people who know what it is like (Carers Australia can also connect you to these), and making sure you look after yourself in ways that assist you to de-stress. Depression is hard on relationships! Couples counselling can also help, to encourage you and your wife to talk honestly aout the impact of depression on your relationship, and to develop strategies for managing this in the most optimal way.

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    Dr Pek Ang

    Psychiatrist

    Specialist Psychiatrist - management of Depression and Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, Bipolar, ADHD, Autism, Mood and Anger problems and Personality Disorders. Management of Psychological problems associated … View Profile

    Very good responses and advice.

    If she is not getting better, I would ask to see a Psychiatrist for a review of her Depression as there are many different types which require slightly different approaches.  Don't delay if things are not improving.

    I note she is 49 and a Nurse!.. Tough job with shift work, stressful conditions,etc.  Would check hormones in case approaching Menopause.  Eliminate alcohol !  THis means everyone in the house if possible.

    As for you, it helps to have a good GP to talk to who understands her condition.  Could be even the same GP.  Please attend doctor's appointments with your wife if she is agreeable.  It shows support and helps give the doctor information your wife may not be able to provide.  This is  a critical bit of information which can help the treatment.

    Depression can be contagious! [I don't mean you can catch it].  Being around someone depressed can bring you down.  It's not uncommon to have both of the couple eventually becoming depressed ... and the kids too.  So the GP is very important to evaluate what everyone needs.

    There will be family relationship struggles as a result [or sometimes partly a cause], so counselling in this area is needed.

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